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Oral Sex - Questions and Answers

Oral sex refers to oral (mouth and tongue) stimulation of the genitals. Fellatio is the Latin term for oral stimulation of the penis; cunnilingus is the Latin term for oral stimulation of the vulva (the external part of the vagina). Some slang expressions for fellatio include:  blowjob, sucking or giving head. Slang expressions for cunnilingus include: eating out, or going down.

Anilingus, which refers to kissing, sucking, licking, and/or tonguing the anal opening with the lips and/or tongue, is known as "rimming" or anal oral sex.

The penis is most sensitive at the top, or head, including the frenulum, the underside of the penis where the head meets the shaft. A person can perform oral sex by sucking, licking, or kissing the penis and scrotum.

The part of the vulva that is frequently stimulated during oral sex is called the clitoris. It’s a small, round lump of tissue about the size of a button, just above the urethral opening, and is highly sensitive to touch because of a large supply of nerve endings. The clitoral glans is covered by a hood. Individuals may prefer to be touched on the hood, which partly covers the clitoris, since the clitoris is highly sensitive to the touch. The clitoris extends to an unseen shaft about 1” long.

Sex surveys and interviews, going back to those conducted by Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as those from recent decades, indicate that this is a sexual behavior practiced by both genders, across age levels, race, sexual orientations and marital status.

However, the popularity of oral sex has dramatically increased from the time of Kinsey’s interviews. A CDC survey done between 2006 and 2008 showed 90% of adults aged 25-44 have had oral sex with someone of the opposite sex.

It’s been said many times before: people need to find a way to communicate with each other in order to enhance their sexual experience. It’s certainly true during oral sex. The receiving partner needs to let the giving partner know what feels best. Acknowledging at the beginning that making adjustments is normal and fun will be helpful. You might find that saying what feels good works well, or you might prefer not to speak but rather to indicate your likes and dislikes in other ways. This could include making sounds or using your hands to help guide or move the person to another place on your body.

Sex surveys of women report that most achieve orgasm more easily from oral or manual stimulation rather than during penetrative intercourse. Because the tongue is soft, warm and lubricated, a woman may find that this provides such intense stimulation that it becomes the best means for achieving orgasm. Each person is unique. For some women, oral sex will become part of a sexual repertoire. For others, it will become the primary sexual behavior of choice.

Many people feel safe engaging in this behavior because they know there is no risk of pregnancy. There are, however, other considerations. Some STIs, such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, HIV, HPV, yeast, and syphilis can be transmitted through oral-genital contact. For example, oral herpes (cold sores) can be transmitted to the genitals and genital herpes can be transmitted to the mouth. The herpes virus can be passed even without visible sores. HIV may be transmitted through oral genital sex when HIV in semen, vaginal secretions, or blood enters the mucus membranes or abrasions in the mouth and throat. Saliva is not responsible for transmitting HIV.


For most people, cleanliness is an important consideration. Consider showering or bathing prior to sexual activity. It removes the daily dirt, sweat and other "collectibles" that accumulate over the course of the day.

Vaginal douching is NOT recommended. Douching is washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids, which can lead to various health problems such as making a person more susceptible to infection if exposed during sexual activity. Anal douching is also NOT recommended.

For an individual with an uncircumcised penis, pull back the foreskin to wash thoroughly.

Circumcised individuals also need to maintain good hygiene as the absence of foreskin can cause the penis head to come in direct contact with sweat and bacteria.


What if my partner doesn’t want to perform oral sex? What if I’m not interested in this behavior?
Individuals have different likes and dislikes. Those differences should be respected. However, it’s possible that a person’s dislike of this sexual act is based on hygienic concerns. If so, see our section on Hygiene. It’s also possible that a person is concerned about disease transmission. Try talking with your partner about his/her feelings and why they’re feeling that way. Go to a bookstore or check our Health & Wellness library (located on the 3rd floor of the IU Health Center) for some resources that you can read and enjoy together. Time and increasing intimacy can help an individual be more comfortable with oral sex.

What is safer oral sex?
It’s possible that the use of a latex barrier such as a dental dam,
a thin square of latex used to cover a woman’s vulva,a non-lubricated condom cut open, saran wrap or a non-lubricated latex condom placed between the mouth and genitals would make the behavior more appealing, and certainly less riskyin terms of STI transmission. This is where communication will become important.

For oral sex on a penis, should I spit or swallow the ejaculate?
This is a personal preference. Some don’t mind swallowing while others may find it unappealing. For others, it might be strictly based on the taste (salty or bitter) and texture (thin or viscous) of the ejaculate. It is important to spit or swallow immediately to keep the ejaculate from entering any cuts on the inside of the mouth. If your concern about swallowing is about ingesting hormones, rest assured that even though the testicles produce most of the hormones, they are not released into the ejaculate. If the concern is about calories, the approximate teaspoonful of ejaculate is low cal (about 5 calories).
Note: Based on information from the CDC, you can reduce your risk for STIs by not allowing your partner to ejaculate in your mouth.

I’ve never done this before…will I enjoy it?
There is a range of feelings expressed about this sexual behavior. They include those who truly enjoy performing oral sex, to those who don’t find anything particularly special about it but want to do it for their partner, to those who don’t want anything to do with it. Many people would probably say that it indicates a degree of intimacy for another person, intimacy that can’t be expressed in any other way. A person’s feelings can change over time and from one partner to another. If it is something about which you’re intrigued, you can find books and other resources with additional information and insight.